As a young boy, I was told the world is mine for the taking and my skin color isn’t an impediment, but an accessory. So when it comes to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, admittedly, I’m conflicted.
At 7, I dreamed of becoming famous. The endless racks of People Magazine, the red carpet, and hordes of fans screaming the names of famous singers and movie stars made the concept of fame quite appealing. Even second graders strive to be adored and liked by all.
While I’d like to consider my younger self an optimist, I didn’t play games with reality. Being 7, I didn’t necessarily understand if my success would be hindered by the color of my skin. but I did know I’d have to work hard. That principle had been drilled into ever since I could walk. I told myself, “The only way you’ll ever make it is if you can act or sing.”
Sadly, I wasn’t blessed with vocals or dance moves.
But I am quite the drama king. So I settled on acting.
In my home, actors like Tyler Perry, Eddie Murphy, and Morgan Freeman dominated our TV sets. I practically grew up on the Tyler Perry franchise. With greatness so close, my aspirations were left unchecked and free to grow. As I donned roles in school plays like the ‘Lion King’ and ‘A throwback to the 70s’, their personal successes kept me motivated.
Eventually I moved on from acting and settled on politics. Washington and LA aren’t so different are they?
This year, the Academy has a glaring problem that has pitted whites against blacks. There are 20 nominees in 20 different categories, but not one black person. After big hits like “Straight Outta Compton” and “Creed” slayed the box office, #BlackTwitter found itself doing a double take. So did I. These films had created discussion, dominated social media, and exceeded expectations.
More importantly, they made an impact. The impact of a movie rests on perspective. The quality of a film is a matter of opinion – and one evidently not shared by the Academy.
While I scratch my head as to why not one African-American actor was nominated, I remain optimistic. Being 13 and growing up in 2016, I am privileged to have the opportunity to see people who look like me on TV. Seven decades ago, there was no such privilege.
But the Academy isn’t racist. Let’s be honest. It’s the film industry that is largely to blame. It’s not diverse. It doesn’t look like its viewers, but the same could be said about a lot of industries.
As a race, we can’t be selectively outraged. Let’s talk about #JournalismSoWhiter. Let’s talk about #EducationSoWhite.
Lack of diversity is a problem. But it won’t be helped by laziness or self-victimization.
Black America is going to have to work hard.
In 2008, the first black president was elected. Regardless of our differing views, his journey to the White House profoundly affected me. It showed me that I can be anything, do anything, regardless of the color of my skin. In the fourth grade, I moved to a primarily white school district where there were very few people who looked liked me. Sometimes, I found myself feeling inferior. But as black trailblazers like President Obama and Ben Carson had so daringly proven, my skin color wasn’t a disability nor was it the foundation of inferiority. Their success gave me comfort.
My childhood filled with black heavyweights who had left their mark on the big screen made an unforgettable imprint on my life. Tyler Perry’s Mabel ‘Madea’ Simmons had basically become my second grandmother. While her tough love, no nonsense attitude was meant to be purely for entertainment, I sometimes found myself in situations where I’d just sit and wonder, “What would Madea do?”
As my great-grandmother, better known as just Grandma Sue, told me, my skin color is nothing more than an accessory and it’s only an impediment if I make it one. When I asked my Grandma Sue for her thoughts on the Oscars controversy, she didn’t hold back.
“We had to fight to use the same restrooms, fight to receive the same education, and y’all are fighting over some silly award. Chile’ please”
Until that day. I had no idea baby boomers could throw such profound shade.
So when it comes to #OscarsSoWhite, I’m not offended, I’m energized.
My great-grandmother’s generation had fought to clear the way for us and give us an equal playing field. And so did Morgan Freeman, Tyler Perry, and Lupita Nyong’o with her impactful performance in “12 Years A Slave” which took home an Oscar for Best Motion Picture and two other categories.
We are no longer victims, we are champions.
#BlackMagic is alive and well.